Tuesday 1 June 2010

The Shadow Hunt

Will you all excuse me today if I  indulge in a little fanfare?  Because this is the publication day in America of my book 'The Shadow Hunt' - and you can see the cover, to the right of this post. 'The Shadow Hunt' is what I would describe as a children's historical fantasy based on Celtic and medieval legends, and it took over most of my life for one and a half years.

Ta-ran-tara, ta-ran-tara!

Writing a book is such darned hard work, and frankly such a lonely occupation, that a publication day is genuinely a time to rejoice.  As I've explained, I gave this blog its name because writing is very much like crossing seven miles of hill on fire and seven miles of steel thistles, and seven miles of sea. 

When you begin writing a new book - as I'm doing now - it feels impossible.  IM-possible.  I have these ideas, and these characters, and a situation, and I feel I don't know half enough about them, and I set out on a long journey of discovery, all the time with the fear that I'll never get there.  But gradually, at a snail-like pace, the pages stack up till there are twenty... fifty... a hundred... (I print out and revise as I go: it may well take me months to write a hundred pages) ...till I find myself in the middle of the book, in the middle of this long stretch of work that's been going on seemingly forever, and will go on seemingly forever.  And at this point, I sleep, eat, dream the book.  I go to bed at night with my mind running the characters like a computer simulation, and I wake in the small hours and in the mornings thinking about them and understanding a little bit more and a little bit more.  It's exhausting, exhilarating, terrifying, and highly anti-social. 

My life is subsumed into the writing process.  I read, but only books which will help with the research, the background, the symbolism, or the actions of the characters.  I go for walks or drives, so that I can think and think about the book.  I shut myself up to go over and over the pages already written, to rewrite, to shred, to revise, to - as far as lies within me - to perfect.

The tipping point comes.  A day arrives when I recognise that the book WILL BE WRITTEN: that enough has been done to give the story a life of its own.  Like an unborn child, it's viable.  Life gets a little easier then.  And at last the final chapter, the final pages get written in a rush of euphoria.

It's done!  I've finished!  Free at last of the awful tyranny of the powerful god or daemon of creation.  Free for a while to do ordinary things, think ordinary thoughts, dig the garden, go shopping. The editing and all that - that's just work, to be enjoyed or grumbled through in an everyday way.  It's not to be compared with the sucking-you-down-into-the-deeps, never-letting-you-get-a-breath, octopus-grip of the creation-god.

So here's to publication day, along with a couple of starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and the very pleasant news that 'The Shadow Hunt' has been chosen by the Junior Library Guild, to be reviewed in its July edition.  You can find out more about it on my website.

If you think the book sounds like something you might like, please give it a go!


  1. Happy publication day, indeed, Kath!

    And I heartily recommend The Shadow Hunt to American readers, having read it in its British incarnation as Dark Angels. You are in for a treat.

  2. I second that! It's a fabulous book and well done for all those accolades. Happy Publication Day, Kath.

  3. Thank you both! Praise from the two of you is praise indeed.

  4. Congratulations, Katherine! Although I am currently in the grip of the lesser octopus god of creation (revision according to my editor's notes), I am going to pick up Shadow Hunt and read it as soon as possible. Good luck with it!

  5. Thanks all - and good luck with yours, Jo!

  6. Huge congratulations for the book itself and the fantastic reviews.

    As a totally novice scribbler, I am always totally in awe of those that are able to win the battle with their characters to get the words on the page and then have the dedictation to put in the work needed go get their book published.

  7. Congratulations and unicorn glitter on publication day! Hope the book does brilliantly in America...

  8. Congratulations in The Shadow Hunt - and a wonderfully accurate description of the writing process!

  9. Thanks Penny - why do we do it? (Because we must.)

  10. Congratulations and good luck with your new book! It sounds just my kind of thing...
    It was fascinating reading about your writing process.The seven miles of hills afire, steel thistles and sea are exactly right!
    I never got further than the 'tearing my hair out cos its turned into a monster' stage! I love writing but my projects of years ago ran away with a life of their own and got the better of me! Pretty sure I've not got what it takes for novels!
    And I love your description of the Creation Daemon/God...very much so...
    Thanks for all of this, quite an insight!